Smith focuses on biathlon for Vancouver Olympics | SteamboatToday.com

Smith focuses on biathlon for Vancouver Olympics

— When Marty Smith was chosen for the U.S. biathlon development team last spring, he knew it was a life-changing event.

Six months later, he has found out how big the changes are.

“That’s basically all I did this summer,” he said, recalling the seemingly endless training in his new home of Lake Placid, N.Y. “I’ve never done this much training before.”

Smith was chosen as a part of the squad after a strong showing at the North American Biathlon Championships in March at Mount Itasca in Coleraine, Minn.

Since then, his life has been uprooted with the move to Lake Placid, and his focus has narrowed. He had never considered biathlon until a few years ago and instead lived for his two biggest loves: cross-country skiing in the winter and kayaking in the summer.

But even the boating had to take a back seat this year, thanks to comparatively lousy kayaking venues in New York.

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“That’s all we did – train, eat and sleep,” he said.

The ritual at the Lake Placid complex begins with a 7 a.m. wake-up call and an early morning workout and shooting session, then another in the afternoon. Smith lived with the two other members of the development team and the 10 members of the nation’s A and B biathlon squads. He said they strapped on roller skis for nearly everything.

The complex also housed members of the freestyle skiing, bobsled, skeleton and luge teams.

“It helped a lot being around people that are always training, resting up and doing the right thing,” Smith said. “I trained a lot better.”

The summer wasn’t without its fun. Smith did travel back to Steamboat – a thriving, exciting town compared to Lake Placid, he said – for a ritual dip in the Yampa River. He spent some time working for the Mountain Sports Kayak School, run by his father, Barry Smith.

Steamboat roots

The trip home was important, he said.

Smith said he’d have never gotten the opportunity to land his spot in Lake Placid without the help of his parents and his former coaches with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

His new rifle – a $4,000 Anschutz target rifle imported from Germany – was a 21st birthday gift from his mother, Debbie Smith.

And the foundation of training he picked up in his years roaming the trails around Steamboat on cross-country skis proved invaluable.

“They really gave him a good foundation,” Debbie Smith said about the Winter Sports Club. “That he went out to New York was a lot because of them. It’s really a credit to the club for prepping kids so they can make a national team in a sport they had never even tried.”

It wasn’t hard, she said, letting her son chase a sport when so many others his age are making their way through college and preparing for the rest of their lives.

“It’s an opportunity that’s pretty unique, and there’s a ton of good stuff about it,” she said. “I can’t even think of a negative about it. I hope someday he’ll go back to school, but he has plenty of time to do that.”

First, Marty Smith has other plans.

The ticket to Lake Placid included free food, free training and a place to stay. Smith called it an amazing experience, living with Olympians and people so dedicated to their sport.

He said it’s not the end of his biathlon experiment, however. If he’s to realize the rest of his new dream, he’ll need a strong winter. His eyes are locked on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, in the long term, and on climbing the biathlon ladder – earning a spot on the A or B team – in the short term.

He hopes to be chosen to be a part of the nation’s European Cup team this winter and wants to be in position to challenge for the Olympic team when the time comes.

“If everything goes right and I ski fast, keep training and stay focused, I have a pretty good chance,” he said about his more immediate goals. “Then the Olympics, that’s my main goal for the next two years.”

– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com.